Cinema Scope Online

TIFF 2021 | The Other Tom (Rodrigo Plá, Laura Santullo, Mexico/USA)

By Angelo Muredda / September 15, 2021

By Angelo Muredda Single mom Elena (Julia Chavez) tries to do right by her scampish ten-year-old son Tom (Israel Rodríguez Bertorelli) despite the interventions of the byzantine Texas school system in Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo’s minor-key drama The Other Tom, based on Santullo’s novel. The filmmakers do well to balance their kitchen-sink realism and…

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TIFF 2021 | One Second (Zhang Yimou, China)

By Shelly Kraicer / September 15, 2021

By Shelly Kraicer Published in Cinema Scope #87 (Summer 2021) Zhang Yimou has released 22 features to date, in addition to a couple of shorts, two more features shot and ready to go (censors permitting), his grandiose made-for-TV pageants for the Beijing Olympics, opera stagings like Turandot at the Forbidden City, and, if we’re being…

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TIFF 2021 | Murina (Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, Croatia)

By Madeleine Wall / September 15, 2021

By Madeleine Wall Winner of this year’s Caméra d’Or at Cannes, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina is a competent but slight combo of thriller and coming-of-age film basking in the sun of the Adriatic sea. Armed with a speargun and clad in a white bathing suit, 16-year-old Julija (Gracija Filipovic) cuts a striking figure in the…

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TIFF 2021 | The Devil’s Drivers (Mohammed Abugeth & Daniel Carsenty, Qatar/France/Lebanon/Germany)

By Katherine Connell / September 15, 2021

By Katherine Connell Car chases, the customary crescendo of the action genre, are a tense everyday reality for the subjects of The Devil’s Drivers, Mohammed Abugeth and Daniel Carsenty’s documentary that follows Palestinian drivers who smuggle workers living in the West Bank into Israel. Plumes of orange dirt trail behind vehicles navigating desert roads at…

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TIFF 2021 | Dashcam (Rob Savage, UK)

By Corey Atad / September 15, 2021

By Corey Atad  As livestream horror has become a recognizable subgenre in its own right, director Rob Savage has deliberately thrown all caution to the wind, diving head first into absolute chaos with Dashcam, his follow-up to the more sparse, Zoom-set pandemic hit Host. The chaos begins well before the horror with our introduction to…

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TIFF 2021 | Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)

By Jay Kuehner / September 15, 2021

By Jay Kuehner The concept of a Bergman Safari on the island of Fårö is something that not even a Roy Andersson would have conceived of, but it’s a tour bus that many cinephiles have been riding for years, like it or not. The punchline afforded in Mia Hansen-Løve’s faintly brackish, irreverent homage is that…

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TIFF 2021 | France (Bruno Dumont, France)

By Lawrence Garcia / September 14, 2021

By Lawrence Garcia Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) “Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus In the seven years since P’tit Quinquin, it has become impossible to continue tagging Bruno Dumont with the longstanding clichés of Bresson criticism. Epithets like “ascetic,” “severe,” “punishing”—already limited descriptors…

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TIFF 2021 | Spencer (Pablo Larraín, UK/Germany)

By Jay Kuehner / September 14, 2021

By Jay Kuehner Come for the Di, but stay for the Pablo. Having followed the moves of the Chilean autor far more than that of any royal family member, I thought the strategy was sound enough to suffer the eternal hors d’oeuvre of crustless sandwiches and acrid tea that is monarchy-watching. If Larraín, in Tony…

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TIFF 2021 | A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)

By Jay Kuehner / September 14, 2021

By Jay Kuehner An unexpected insight is proffered in Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero by the maligned creditor Bahram, who speculates whether good deeds have become so scarce in society that they warrant congratulation. Much of Farhadi’s moral tale revolves around the appearance of virtue and all of its attendant deceptions, conjuring a very modern anxiety…

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TIFF 2021 | Sundown (Michel Franco, Mexico)

By Adam Nayman / September 14, 2021

By Adam Nayman The indefatigable Michel Franco is back on his grind with Sundown, a companion piece to last year’s accomplished or objectionable (depending on who you ask) New Order. Both films—one a thriller, the other a character study, both set in the director’s native Mexico—could  broadly be said to be about “wealth inequality.” Careful…

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TIFF 2021 | Zalava (Arsalan Amiri, Iran)

By Madeleine Wall / September 14, 2021

By Madeleine Wall It is easy to be certain in the daylight. For gendarmerie sergeant Masoud (Navid Pourfaraj), maintaining order in the small Kurdish village of Zalava is a balancing act between accommodating the superstitions of the villagers and the rapidly changing modern world. These beliefs are foundational to the villagers, part of their genetics,…

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TIFF 2021 | Three Minutes – A Lengthening (Bianca Stigter, Netherlands/UK)

By Jay Kuehner / September 14, 2021

By Jay Kuehner Perhaps not since José Luis Guerin’s Tren des Sombres (1997) has a film so exactingly interrogated its source—in the case of Bianca Stigter’s documentary, a short 16mm reel discovered in a Florida attic in 2008 by the maker’s grandson, Glenn Kurtz. The eponymous three minutes of holiday footage (shot in the Polish…

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TIFF 2021 | Farha (Darin J. Sallam, Jordan/Sweden/Saudi Arabia)

By Gabrielle Marceau / September 14, 2021

By Gabrielle Marceau Farha opens with a familiar story: a young Palestinian girl, nearing womanhood, who is trying to determine the course of her life beyond the confines of tradition. Farha (Karam Taher) wants to go to school, but her father wants her to marry and stay in their village. This family conflict is interrupted…

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TIFF 2021 | The Wheel (Steve Pink, USA)

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2021

By Adam Nayman From the director of both Hot Tub Time Machine movies (there was a sequel, remember) comes a probing, emotional relationship drama. “What if it doesn’t work?” asks Albee (Amber Midthunder) about the step-by-step, relationship-saving experiment proposed by her husband Walker (Taylor Gray), and the only thing really pressurizing the 83 more or…

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TIFF 2021 | Drunken Birds (Ivan Grbovic, Canada)

By Angelo Muredda / September 13, 2021

By Angelo Muredda With Jean-Marc Vallée tied up in American television and Denis Villeneuve bound for Arrakis, Canada’s response to the tangled international melodramas of Alejandro González Iñárritu seemingly falls to Ivan Grbovic. Grbovic follows up his understated character study Roméo Onze with the curiously schematic Drunken Birds, which marks a step up in scale…

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TIFF 2021 | Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Denmark)

By Robert Koehler / September 13, 2021

By Robert Koehler Jonas Poher Rasmussen, the Danish co-writer and director of Flee, met an Afghan refugee in high school. He’s maintained a friendship with him ever since, but realized at some point that he didn’t really know him. Rasmussen’s heartfelt yet gimmicky attempt at understanding him better isn’t as failed as the 20-year US…

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TIFF 2021 | Dune (Denis Villeneuve, US/Hungary)

By Meg Shields / September 13, 2021

By Meg Shields In retrospect, Denis Villeneuve’s career has always been hurtling toward Dune, given its fateful melange of unadaptable sci-fi (Arrival), closely guarded cult objects (Blade Runner 2049), and morally fraught political sandstorms (Sicario). Adapting the first half of Frank Herbert’s monumental sci-fi novel, Dune begins with an uneasy exchange of power: the transfer…

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TIFF 2021 | Earwig (Lucile Hadžihalilović, UK/France/Belgium)

By Madeleine Wall / September 13, 2021

By Madeleine Wall In a large, gloomy house somewhere in Europe, sometime after a war, Albert (a brittle Paul Hilton) lives in isolation with his charge, ten-year-old Mia (Romane Hemelaers). Mia does not speak, and Albert’s main communication with the outside world is from sporadic telephone calls, asking about the state of his ward. Mia…

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TIFF 2021 | Lingui, the Sacred Bonds (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Chad/France/Germany/Belgium)

By Jordan Cronk / September 13, 2021

By Jordan Cronk Another fine if unremarkable film in a career defined by them, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Lingui, the Sacred Bonds features all the hallmarks that have made the Chadian director a mainstay of the modern festival circuit: competent craftsmanship, topical subject matter, and geographic backdrops just unique enough to lend an air of urgency to…

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TIFF 2021 | Whether the Weather is Fine (Carlo Francisco Manatad, Philippines/France/Singapore/ Indonesia/Germany/Qatar)

By Robert Koehler / September 13, 2021

By Robert Koehler In early November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit the eastern Filipino island of Leyte with wind speeds as high as 195mph—the second-highest ever recorded in the Western Pacific. Haiyan killed over 6,300 and flattened most of Tacloban City, the hometown of filmmaker Carlo Francisco Manatad. In his feature debut, Manatad has reconceived the…

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TIFF 2021 | To Kill the Beast (Agustina San Martín, Argentina/Brazil/Chile)

By Katherine Connell / September 13, 2021

By Katherine Connell The moon floats against a sky so overcast that it’s impossible to determine whether the hour is night or day—a suitably disorienting opener for Agustina San Martín’s surreal To Kill the Beast. In an area surrounded by rainforest bordering Brazil and Argentina, 17-year-old Emilia (Tamara Rocca) shows up at a hostel owned…

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TIFF 2021 | Mlungu Wam (Jenna Cato Bass, South Africa)

By Angelo Muredda / September 13, 2021

By Angleo Muredda “I think she’s been working for too long now,” a man deadpans about his bone-tired mother Mavis (Nosipho Mtebe) late in Jenna Cato Bass’s absorbing thriller Mlungu Wam, an allegory about how the white supremacist violence of apartheid-era South Africa reverberates into the future as demons for the children and grandchildren of…

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TIFF 2021 | Ahed’s Knee (Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany)

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2021

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) Nadav Lapid continues to take a scalpel to contemporary Israel in Ahed’s Knee, although this particular dissection might leave a bigger scar. The Kindergarten Teacher (2014) and Synonyms (2019) already flirted with autobiography, but his fourth feature pushes forward into full autofiction, sending a director…

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TIFF 2021 | Ste. Anne (Rhayne Vermette, Canada)

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2021

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #86 (Spring 2021) When navigating the as-yet-unknown films of a festival program, nationality still provides a persuasive point of reference for some, a feeling underlined by the proud declarations issued by national funding organizations, promotional bodies, or particularly partisan members of the press once titles have been announced.…

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TIFF 2021 | The Middle Man (Bent Hamer, Norway/Germany/ Denmark/Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 12, 2021

By Adam Nayman Tapped for a spectacularly thankless civil service gig in a dilapidated Ontario backwater, Frank (Sverre Hagen) interviews for the job in front of a panel that includes Don McKellar and Paul Gross. The Canadiana couldn’t be thicker, but as writer-director Bent Hamer actually hails from historic Sandefjord, Norway—a one-time Viking stronghold and…

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TIFF 2021 | Unclenching the Fists (Kira Kovalenko, Russia)

By Robert Koehler / September 12, 2021

By Robert Koehler A suffocating, claustrophobic box canyon, lousy with industrial waste, is the dominant landscape of Kira Kovalenko’s second feature, Unclenching the Fists. Kovalenko, who workshopped with Alexander Sokurov but is firmly her own filmmaker, uses this place—Mizur, in the Caucasus highlands of North Ossetia-Alania—as a metonym for the awful, hopeless lives of her…

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TIFF 2021 | Quickening (Haya Waseem, Canada)

By Katherine Connell / September 12, 2021

By Katherine Connell Writer-director Haya Waseem’s formally striking first feature is a melodrama executed with considerable restraint. After an opening title defines the term “pseudocyesis”—a form of psychosomatic but hormonally convincing pregnancy—we are taken to a dance studio, where bodies writhe on the floor and smash into walls. In front of the class, Pakistani Canadian…

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TIFF 2021 | Small Body (Laura Samani, Italy/France/Slovenia)

By Angelo Muredda / September 12, 2021

By Angelo Muredda A young mother’s desire to give her stillborn child a name prompts a perilous trip to a mountain sanctuary in Laura Samani’s assured if familiar Small Body. Celeste Cescutti is appropriately severe as Agata, a pure-hearted stoic who risks life and limb to carry her limbo-bound child to a remote church where…

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TIFF 2021 | Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Wen Shipei, China)

By Shelly Kraicer / September 11, 2021

By Shelly Kraicer Increasingly strict censorship limits the kind of films Chinese directors can make and still get approved for either domestic screenings or export. But film noir remains a viable option for filmmakers to play with violence and ambiguity, within limits. Are You Lonesome Tonight? is first-time director Wen Shipei’s entry into a tough…

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TIFF 2021 | The Tsugua Diaries (Maureen Fazendeiro & Miguel Gomes, Portugal)

By Robert Koehler / September 11, 2021

By Robert Koehler 2020 may go down as The Year From Hell, but at least it gave us The Tsugua Diaries. Rudely interrupted by the COVID pandemic in proceeding with not one, but two productions—Savagery and Grand Tour—Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes opted to do exactly the opposite of what everyone, including undoubtedly the Portuguese…

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TIFF 2021 | The Falls (Chung Mong-hong, Taiwan)

By Shelly Kraicer / September 11, 2021

By Shelly Kraicer Many recent films take COVID-era quarantining as a premise to examine lonely humans and their difficulties connecting, but Chung Mong-hong’s The Falls does something quite special. This story of a cloistered family allows the Taiwanese director—who has heretofore specialized in blackly comic portraits of men under intense stress—to open up his world…

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TIFF 2021 | Lo Invisible (Javier Andrade, Ecuador/France)

By Angelo Muredda / September 11, 2021

By Angelo Muredda Anahi Hoeneisen is inscrutable as a woman on the verge of either a breakdown or a breakthrough in Javier Andrade’s chamber drama Lo Invisible. Co-written by Hoeneisen and Andrade, the film unfolds, enigmatically at first and then tediously, as a series of opaque tableaux of protagonist Luisa’s tentative reintegration into family life…

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TIFF 2021 | The Mad Women’s Ball (Mélanie Laurent, France)

By Katherine Connell / September 11, 2021

By Katherine Connell Despite its interest in shedding light on the patriarchal, abusive history of medicine, Mélanie Laurent’s The Mad Women’s Ball can’t help but indulge tropes that both romanticize and exploit its subject matter. An adaptation of the novel by Victoria Mas, the film follows Eugénie Cléry (Lou de Laâge), whose privileged class status…

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TIFF 2021 | Train Again (Peter Tscherkassky, Austria)

By Christoph Huber / September 10, 2021

By Christoph Huber Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) I Peter Tscherkassky’s 20-minute film Train Again unearths some new materialist marvels while expanding on those typically Tscherkasskian sensations the Austrian filmmaker achieves through the technique of contact printing, in which found footage is copied by hand, frame by frame, onto unexposed film stock. His…

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TIFF 2021 | The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark)

By Jordan Cronk / September 10, 2021

By Jordan Cronk One of the year’s more pleasantly unexpected returns to form, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World finds the Norwegian director back on firmer ground following the underwhelming international co-production Louder Than Bombs (2015) and the ill-fitting supernatural thriller Thelma (2017). Though billed as the final film in a trilogy that…

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TIFF 2021 | Terrorizers (Ho Di Wing, Taiwan)

By Shelly Kraicer / September 10, 2021

By Shelly Kraicer Starting from a seemingly unmotivated samurai-style sword attack in present-day Taipei’s main train station, Terrorizers circles back and around again and again through a complex network of characters—a student, an aspiring actress, a cosplayer, a masseuse—spawning threads and mysteries that it eventually knits back together into a disturbing portrait of today’s Taiwanese…

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TIFF 2021 | Maria Chapdelaine (Sébastien Pilote, Canada)

By Gabrielle Marceau / September 10, 2021

By Gabrielle Marceau Maria (Sara Montpetit) is the eldest daughter of a settler family living in rural Québec after the turn of the century, and like many literary heroines, she is trying to determine what kind of life she wants to lead— which, in the strictures of the era, means which suitor to marry. She…

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TIFF 2021 | Kicking Blood (Blaine Thurier, Canada)

By Gabrielle Marceau / September 10, 2021

By Gabrielle Marceau Early in Blaine Thurier’s existential vampire drama, the beautiful, bloodsucking Anna (Alanna Bale) takes home the hapless drunk Robbie. He asks for a drink, and Anna replies: “I don’t drink alcohol.” It’s a clear reference to Bela Lugosi’s iconic line in Dracula (1931), where he lingers deliciously over the pause between, “I…

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TIFF 2021 | The Girl and the Spider (Ramon & Silvan Zürcher, Switzerland)

By Blake Williams / September 9, 2021

By Blake Williams Published in Cinema Scope #87 (Summer 2021) I will never know how you see red, and you will never know how I see it; but this separation of consciousnesses is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is to believe in an undivided being between us.—Maurice Merleau-Ponty Near…

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TIFF 2021 | Jockey (Clint Bentley & Greg Kwedar, US)

By Robert Koehler / September 9, 2021

By Robert Koehler The sun is setting on the career of Phoenix-based jockey Jackson Silva, literally, in Jockey, an old-fashioned sports movie that has inexplicably become one of the hits of this year’s North American festival circuit. It was one of the few acquisitions by Sony Pictures Classics at Sundance, a testimony to either how…

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TIFF 2021 | Night Raiders (Danis Goulet, Canada/New Zealand)

By Katherine Connell / September 9, 2021

By Katherine Connell Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) The appeal of dystopian narratives hangs on their capacity to hold up a funhouse mirror to the corruption and exploitation of our already extant social realities. Indigenous artists and filmmakers have long underscored the dystopic reality of colonial nation states in their work, and the…

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TIFF 2021 | Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (Edwin, Indonesia/Singapore/Germany)

By Robert Koehler / September 9, 2021

By Robert Koehler One of the dirty little secrets of art cinema is that most directors who make such films can’t do action. (I adore Zama [2017] as much as anybody, but, oh my, those action scenes…) So it is with Edwin and his well-intentioned but bumbling Indonesian martial-arts tribute movie based on Eka Kurniawan’s…

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TIFF 2021 | Titane (Julie Ducournau, France/Belgium)

By Phil Coldiron / September 9, 2021

By Phil Coldiron Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) The erotic history of the car in cinema extends back nearly to the dawn of the medium: there’s Chaplin, in 1914, asserting in his first film that he’s a more enticing view than the soapbox derbies at the Kid Auto Races (no engines yet). Though…

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TIFF 2021 | Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Colombia/Thailand/ UK/France/Germany/Mexico)

By Jordan Cronk / September 8, 2021

By Jordan Cronk Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) “When he came to, the present was almost intolerable in its richness and sharpness, as were his most distant and trivial memories…Now his perception and his memory were infallible.”—Jorge Luis Borges, “Funes the Memorious” Amongst the research materials, set photographs, email correspondence, and treatment excerpts…

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TIFF 2021 | The Odd-Job Men (Neus Ballús, Spain)

By Robert Koehler / September 8, 2021

By Robert Koehler It is advisable to ignore most festival program notes. It is especially advisable to ignore the TIFF program note accompanying The Odd-Job Men, which would set up the viewer to expect a feminist parable on machismo. Catalan filmmaker Neus Ballús and the screenwriting team of Montse Ganges and Ana Sanz-Magallón (under their…

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TIFF 2021 | Drive My Car (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, Japan)

By Mark Peranson / September 8, 2021

By Mark Peranson Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) Throughout his filmography, tracing back to Happy Hour (2015), Ryusuke Hamaguchi has been intrigued by the place of women in Japanese society: their awareness of how they are supposed to behave and how they either choose to live by the rules or break out on…

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TIFF 2021 | Petite maman (Céline Sciamma, France)

By Courtney Duckworth / September 8, 2021

By Courtney Duckworth  Published in Cinema Scope #87 (Summer 2021) Fairy tales routinely kill or banish parents to clear a path for the roaming imaginations of children. Recall that Hansel and Gretel must plumb the forest alone, assaying their own mettle, and the stranded Goose Girl cannot speak her secret self to another soul. Céline…

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TIFF 2020: Point and Line to Plane (Sofia Bohdanowicz, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman The sterile, corkscrew expanse of the Guggenheim is a concrete geometric presence in Point and Line to Plane, which takes its title from a 1947 book of art theory by Wassily Kandinsky and is punctuated by images of his abstract canvases, as well as those of his lesser-known predecessor Hilma af Klint.…

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TIFF 2020: Rules for Werewolves (Jeremy Schaulin-Roux, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman Having not read Kirk Lynn’s 2015 novel about a feral cult of squatters, I can’t say if Rules for Werewolves qualifies as a proper adaptation or a literary riff in miniature: the snaky long take narrating the desecration of a sprawling but sterile suburban mansion unfolds in sync to the author’s ramblingly…

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TIFF 2020: Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, US/Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman The title character of Canadian director Emma Seligman’s feature debut is technically the 18-month-old blonde moppet sired by affluent nebbish Max (Danny Deferrari) and his shiksa-goddess wife Kim (Dianna Agron), a miniature avatar of assimilation yelping up a storm amidst a company of black-clad mourners. Symbolically, though, the title refers to tousled,…

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TIFF 2020: Still Processing (Sophy Romvari, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman “A moment stopped would burn like a frame of film, blocked before the furnace of the projector,” intones Alexandra Stewart in Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983), testifying to the essential fluidity of time versus the fixity of photography. Marker’s point seems to be that to disproportionately privilege still images, in cinema as…

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TIFF 2020: Violation (Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 16, 2020

By Adam Nayman If you believe that the worst thing a movie can do is pass unnoticed, then Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli’s Violation might be for you. Deliberately taking its formal and tonal cues from certain filmmakers occupying the endurance-test wing of the art/grindhouse—specifically the cabin-in-the-woods incarnations of Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier—Violation…

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TIFF 2020: Inconvenient Indian (Michelle Latimer, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman Toronto’s Fox Theatre plays itself in Inconvenient Indian, which opens by sending Thomas King—author of the 2012 critical study that give the film its title and rhetorical spine—to the cinema. Sitting in the dark before clips from Nanook of the North, a man watches a movie, and the critic must acknowledge that…

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TIFF 2020: Every Day’s Like This (Lev Lewis, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman The one direct allusion to assisted suicide in Every Day’s Like This is filtered through movie madness: discussing a potential date for the euthanasia of their terminally ill matriarch, a father and his two young-adult children agree that it would be best not to do it before the Oscars. Lev Lewis’ mournful…

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TIFF 2020: Beans (Tracey Deer, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman “Fuck you,” whispers 12-year old Beans (Kiawentiio) to her reflection in the mirror, a playful gesture of self-deprecation that’s also a rehearsal for external clashes. It’s July 1990 in Oka, and if a preteen Mohawk girl is going to get through a summer of standoffs in one piece—or fit in with the…

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TIFF 2020: As Spring Comes (Marie-Ève Juste, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman Metaphor blooms in As Spring Comes, which reconfigures a frosbitten ice-fishing shack into a literal hothouse. Sheltered inside with her lover in what seems to be a mutually understood ritual, a young woman photogenically mutates—evolves? reverts?—from fauna to flora. Typically, a little magic realism goes a long way, and thankfully, French-Canadian director…

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TIFF 2020: The Archivists (Igor Drljaca, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman A significant change of pace for Bosnian-Canadian filmmaker Igor Drljaca after a run of Balkan-themed hybrid fictions and docs, the sci-fi-inflected The Archivists concerns a trio of future-shocked musicologists trying to reconstruct an I-Love-the-’80s hit, using improvised instruments in an abandoned country home. The theme is the durability and necessity of art…

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TIFF 2020: Akilla’s Escape (Charles Officer, Canada)

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2020

By Adam Nayman A weary, wary weed dealer with decades on his odometer, Akilla (Saul Williams) operates self-effacingly under cover of the Toronto night; staring down the barrel of a gun aimed by Jamaican gangbanger Sheppard (Thamela Mpumlwana), he decides to try to save a wayward boy who could be his mirror. The structural gimmick…

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TIFF 2020: The Inheritance (Ephraim Asili, US)

By James Lattimer / September 13, 2020

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #84 (Fall 2020) The role of past insights in (still) present-day struggles is at the heart of The Inheritance, a playful, erudite, and boundary-blurring examination of what performing Black theory, literature, music, and testimony in a contemporary Philadelphia commune might set in motion. Given even greater topicality by…

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TIFF 2020: Fauna (Nicolás Pereda, Mexico/Canada)

By Jordan Cronk / September 12, 2020

By Jordan Cronk Published in Cinema Scope #84 (Fall 2020) There’s a point in nearly every Nicolás Pereda film when the narrative is either reoriented or upended in some way. In the past this has occurred through bifurcations in story structure or via ruptures along a given film’s docufiction fault line. Pereda’s ninth feature, Fauna,…

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TIFF 2020: Notturno (Gianfranco Rosi, Italy/France/Germany)

By Mark Peranson / September 11, 2020

By Mark Peranson Published in Cinema Scope #84 (Fall 2020)  “The night scares me so much,” confesses a courageous Yazidi pre-teen girl to a therapist, remembering the period when she and her younger sister were captured by ISIS. Anyone who was seen crying would be killed, they were told; it turned out to be a…

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Cross Purposes: The 2020 Crossroads Festival

By Michael Sicinski / September 5, 2020

By Michael Sicinski “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”—Yogi Berra In an ordinary year, the Crossroads Festival, presented by the San Francisco Cinematheque, provides a kind of alternative to other showcases of experimental film and video that, for various historical or institutional reasons, can be less catholic and more risk-averse.…

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White Lie (Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis, Canada)

By Madeleine Wall / August 3, 2020

By Madeleine Wall After 2019’s summer of scammers, from the fall of Elizabeth Holmes to the false starts of Caroline Calloway, the cold industrial winter of Hamilton feels particularly harsh. The glossy cautionary fables of the warmer months are long gone, and instead we have something on a smaller scale, a tale of the banality…

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Stage Fright: Dan Sallitt’s Fourteen

By Anna Swanson / February 27, 2020

By Anna Swanson Early in Dan Sallitt’s Fourteen, best friends Mara (Tallie Medel) and Jo (Norma Kuhling) briefly compare their contrasting opinions on fancy lingerie. Mara says that she doesn’t like to wear it because it makes her feel like she’s in a play; Jo’s quick response is to question what’s so wrong about being…

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Off the Grid: Denis Côté’s Wilcox

By Jordan Cronk / January 13, 2020

By Jordan Cronk Wilcox screens with Philip Hoffman’s vulture at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, January 16 as part of MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF. Cinema has long been drawn to the outsider, to the drifters and outcasts that society has relegated to the margins—and, with a few notable exceptions (Agnès Varda’s…

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Sebastian Brameshuber on Movements of a Nearby Mountain

By Andrea Picard / December 9, 2019

By Andréa Picard Movements of a Nearby Mountain screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, December 12 as part of MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF. Winner of this year’s Grand Prix at Cinéma du Réel as well as a clutch of other international prizes, the third feature by Austrian filmmaker Sebastian Brameshuber…

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Suburban Birds (Qiu Sheng, China)

By Phoebe Chen / November 14, 2019

By Phoebe Chen Suburban Birds screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, November 14 as part of MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF. In the grip of this terrestrial life, nothing works so well as a sinkhole to bare the subterranean tremors of our weird planet. You have seen these pictures seized and…

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Three Summers (Sandra Kogut, Brazil/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Caitlin Quinlan / September 13, 2019

By Caitlin Quinlan  Celebrated Brazilian actor Regina Casé shines as Madá, the industrious, enterprising housekeeper for a wealthy Rio family in Sandra Kogut’s warmly affecting Three Summers. Each December from 2015 to2017, Kogut’s film checks in on Madá and her co-workers at a condominium owned by Mr. Edgar and Ms. Marta, the disengaged, too-rich-for-their-own-good married…

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Knives Out (Rian Johnson, US) — Special Presentations

By Meg Shields / September 13, 2019

By Meg Shields Knives Out is a massively fun, if blissfully unsubtle, old-school whodunnit from Star Wars helmer Rian Johnson. The film takes place in a manor presumably built by the same contractor behind Laurence Olivier’s mansion in Sleuth, and revolves around the mysterious death of the Thrombrey family’s patriarch, Harlan (Christopher Plummer). The writing…

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Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2019

By Adam Nayman With five minutes to go in Jojo Rabbit, I laughed out loud. One of the actors (not one of the famous ones) got off a good line reading, and my response, fully audible and totally involuntary, filled me with shame. (I actually apologized to my seatmate, who will remain nameless but successfully…

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Hope (Maria Sødahl, Norway/Sweden) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2019

By Michael Sicinski This third feature film by Maria Sødahl is less a comeback than a new beginning. As the opening title card announces, Hope is based on a true story, although the director refrains from telling the viewer that the story is in fact her own. This knowledge certainly isn’t necessary, but it only…

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The Laundromat (Steven Soderbergh, US) — Special Presentations

By Mark Asch / September 13, 2019

By Mark Asch “Follow the money” is the imperative of every Steven Soderbergh movie: since Traffic helped inaugurate the “everything is connected” genre, he’s tracked the flow of circulating commodities from viruses to athletes, and his heist films invert the find-the-lady deceptiveness of global finance to redistributive ends. The Laudromat, his Panama Papers movie, aims…

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Wasp Network (Olivier Assayas, France/Brazil/Spain/Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Clara Miranda / September 13, 2019

By Clara Miranda Scherffig There is certainly fertile ground for a film in the spy-riddled landscape between Cuba and Miami during the early ’90s. Think of the Pulitzer-winning photograph of six-year-old Elián González being forcibly seized by armed soldiers, and you have the setting for Olivier Assayas’ new film. Wasp Network narrates the heyday of…

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Uncut Gems (Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie, US) — Special Presentations

By Ella Kemp / September 12, 2019

By Ella Kemp Josh and Benny Safdie chip away at the diamond-hard veneer of greed with Uncut Gems, their newest New York thriller that offers up a nightmare vision of a business transaction gone awry. Adam Sandler is at once ferocious and utterly numb-skulled as Howard Ratner, a Jewish jeweller with no self-awareness but an…

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The Song of Names (François Girard, Canada) — Gala Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 12, 2019

By Josh Cabrita  Though the designation of a “late work” is usually reserved for revered masters who in their twilight years distil their style down to its supposedly purified essence, I see no reason why that term couldn’t also apply to a decidedly mediocre (and rarely brilliant) filmmaker like François Girard. Adapted from a book…

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The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers & Kathleen Hepburn, Canada/Norway) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 12, 2019

By Josh Cabrita The sad, slow, melancholy words of Joni Mithcell’s “Little Green” feature prominently in a mournful scene from the latest by Vancouver filmmakers Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. While East Vancouver hipster Áila (Tailfeathers) speaks over the phone with a female crisis centre, the “extremely pregnant” Rosie (Violet Nelson)—whom the former happened upon…

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Resin (Daniel Joseph Borgman, Denmark) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2019

By Michael Sicinski  Something sticky this way comes: Resin is not a very good film judged on its own merits, but it also has the additional misfortune of demanding a side-by-side comparison. The story of Jens (Peter Plaugborg), a delusional “naturalist” who has moved his family to the outskirts of town after faking the drowning…

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Henry Glassie: Field Work (Pat Collins, Ireland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Phoebe Chen / September 12, 2019

By Phoebe Chen Pat Collins’ Henry Glassie: Field Work follows the folkloric practices of its title subject, an emeritus professor at Indiana University who has spent the past 50 years in decade-long sojourns with folk artists across various continents. That a white, American ethnographer should be the ideal interlocutor for communities of craftspeople in rural…

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August (Armando Capó, Cuba/Costa Rica/France) — Discovery

By Caitlin Quinlan / September 12, 2019

By Caitlin Quinlan In August, director Armando Capó makes beautiful use of a Cuban colour palette: lush, leafy greens, rich sea blues, with accents of yellows and oranges. Even the subtitles appear in a soft shade of pink. This debut feature is indicative of a director with a skillful eye for composition and framing, and…

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The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, Canada) — Midnight Madness

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2019

By Michael Sicinski  Hats off to Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowsky for selecting this singular, albeit somewhat counterintuitive, homegrown oddity. Certainly a cult item in the making, The Twentieth Century represents the sort of Freudian-perverse take on national mythmaking that one finds in the work of Jim Finn, combined with the stark Futurist abstraction of…

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Proxima ( Alice Winocour, Germany/France) — Platform

By Mark Asch / September 11, 2019

By Mark Asch A feature-length version of the scene in Robert Zemeckis’ Contact (1997) in which an astronaut’s teary-eyed daughter begs her daddy not to go into space, Alice Winocour’s Proxima follows Eva Green as she juggles parenting an eight-year-old and preparations for a year aboard the International Space Station. Sarah (Green) shares custody of…

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, France) — Special Presentations

By Anna Swanson / September 11, 2019

By Anna Swanson Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, the first thing that stands out about Portrait of a Lady on Fire is its framing device. The film begins with artist and instructor Marianne (Noémie Merlant) posing for her students; when one inquires about a striking painting on the wall of her studio, the film transports to…

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The Antenna (Orçun Behram, Turkey) — Discovery

By Madeleine Wall / September 11, 2019

By Madeleine Wall Hiding from the world behind solitary, mindless work, Mehmet (Ihsan Önal) serves as the superintendent of an anonymous apartment complex. The residents mainly keep to themselves, but as Mehmet settles in for a day where the only thing of note on the agenda is the installation of a new antenna, things rapidly…

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Un film dramatique (Éric Baudelaire, France) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2019

By Michael Sicinski  Despite the fact that it is both preposterous and technologically untenable, a widespread ideology tends to enshroud childhood, proclaiming it a space to be protected from politics and social concerns, a zone of “innocence.” This is perhaps why, in the United States—a nation where a young person entering a school building doesn’t…

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Easy Land (Sanja Zivkovic, Canada) — Discovery

By Anna Swanson / September 11, 2019

By Anna Swanson For the mother-daughter pair of Sanja Zivkovic’s directorial debut Easy Land, the old sentiment that the grass is always greener on the other side resolutely rings true. Jasna (Mirjana Jokovic) is a Serbian immigrant committed to her dream of giving the teenage Nina (Nina Kiri) a better life in Canada. She’s an…

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Collective (Alexander Nanau, Romania) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Scoular / September 10, 2019

By Michael Scoular There’s nothing that can do justice to the terror of the footage that plays near the start of Alexander Nanau’s Colectiv: a fire, breaking out in the middle of a packed album-release show for metal-core band Goodbye to Gravity, destroys a venue with no sprinklers or fire exits, and what we see…

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Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, US) — Gala Presentations

By Daniel Reynolds / September 10, 2019

By Daniel Reynolds Maybe this is my male gaze talking, but if Hustlers was made purely to satisfy Jennifer Lopez’s desire to show she’s still got it at 50, well, fine, I accept that. The film, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, has other things it wants to say about financial crime, our cruel capitalistic…

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Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu, US) — Gala Presentations

By Meg Shields / September 10, 2019

By Meg Shields Clemency was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance festival, and maybe it’s time we accept that the altitude is having some pernicious effect on Utah audiences. The film follows Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard), a beleaguered Death Row warden who takes her job very seriously, but is starting to feel…

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Color Out of Space (Richard Stanley, US) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2019

By Adam Nayman The stories of H.P. Lovecraft teem and crawl with terrifyingly malleable creations, yet paradoxically resist cinematic adaptation; more than most weird tales, they exist to be beheld in the mind’s eye. Richard Stanley’s go at Lovecraft’s 1927 chestnut “The Color Out of Space” eschews the original’s turn-of-the-century setting and repertorial framing device…

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The County (Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland/Denmark/Germany/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Mark Asch / September 10, 2019

By Mark Asch At Cannes 2015, an Un Certain Regard jury headed by Isabella Rossellini awarded its top prize to Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams, a film about the congenital stubbornness of Iceland’s aging rural population which, with its agricultural wit and final shot of feuding twin brothers in a symbolic return to the womb, reached for…

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Ema (Pablo Larraín, Chile) — Special Presentations

By Clara Miranda / September 10, 2019

By Clara Miranda Scherffig In his first film set in contemporary Chile, Pablo Larraìn relays a story of wicked energy within a system that doesn’t recognize itself as such anymore. In contrast with the director’s previous films, Chilean society in Ema is not a character per se, but a platform upon which one can exercise…

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Entwined (Minos Nikolakakis, Greece) — Discovery

By Madeleine Wall / September 10, 2019

By Madeleine Wall It is much harder to make a film like a fairy tale than one expects. When we look back at half- remembered stories from our childhood, they seem simple; we often forget the horrors and complexities that come from sparse storytelling. Minos Nikolakakis’ Entwined takes the form of such a tale, but…

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Paris Stalingrad (Hind Meddeb, France) — TIFF Docs

By Madeleine Wall / September 10, 2019

By Madeleine Wall The only static aspect  of Hind Meddeb’s documentary Paris Stalingrad is the area from which the film takes its name. Beginning with this eponymous space, Meddeb expands to the treatment of the refugees who must stay there, focusing as much on the newcomers  as the Parisians and their varying levels of aid.…

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Sole (Carlo Sironi, Italy/Poland) — Discovery

By Clara Miranda / September 10, 2019

By Clara Miranda Scherffig It is always surprising how many filmmakers deploy the narrative device of a pregnancy in order to explore the emotional and social depths of male characters. This is the case in Sole, the first feature by Italian Carlo Sironi. Ermanno (Claudio Segaluscio) is a young man who spends his time engaged…

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Clifton Hill (Albert Shin, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2019

By Adam Nayman Good thrillers live or die by their specifics, and Clifton Hill is nothing if not precise about its tourist-trap environment (the Canadian side of Niagara Falls) and its inhabitants, including trashy gambling addicts, possibly psychopathic land developers, French-Canadian husband-and-wife tiger-trainers, and—if you hadn’t already heard—David Cronenberg emerging like Ursula Andress (except fully…

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Coppers (Alan Zweig, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Angelo Muredda / September 9, 2019

By Angelo Muredda “Cops are by far the biggest liars,” a subject admits early in Alan Zweig’s Coppers, which brings the filmmaker’s signature conversational style to bear on a profile of retired Toronto police officers, about a dozen of whom are interviewed at rest and in ride-alongs to the scenes of past arrests and disaster…

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This is Not a Movie (Yung Chang, Canada/Germany) — TIFF Docs

By Steve Macfarlane / September 9, 2019

By Steve Macfarlane “The person who denies the genocide in Armenia will deny the Jewish holocaust in Europe, and will deny any other kind of massacre that comes to hand.” That’s Robert Fisk, among the most celebrated war correspondents of the last quarter-century, getting the bio-doc treatment in Yung Chang’s documentary This is Not a…

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The Audition (Ina Weisse, Germany/France) — Discovery

By Anna Swanson / September 9, 2019

By Anna Swanson You could throw a dart and hit an apt musical metaphor for Ina Weisse’s The Audition: it’s a symphonic study of human behaviour, a film with an unrelenting rhythm that crescendos with an act both shocking and, on reflection, inevitable. Nina Hoss is absolutely magnificent as Anna, a violin teacher who takes…

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Tammy’s Always Dying (Amy Jo Johnson, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2019

By Adam Nayman Tammy’s also always yelling—and cursing, and drinking, and threatening suicide, and making a messy spectacle of herself in public and private. That’s just who Tammy is, and it’s also just the sort of movie that Tammy’s Always Dying is trying to be: a smile-through-tears comedy-drama about the need to hold our loved…

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The Australian Dream (Daniel Gordon, Australia/UK) — TIFF Docs

By Beatrice Loayza / September 9, 2019

By Beatrice Loayza It’s no coincidence that the title of Daniel Gordon’s documentary portrait of Australian footballer Adam Goodes echoes the concept of the “American Dream”: after all, the history of Australia, like that of the United States, is a story of colonization and of the violence and racism that both fuelled it and still…

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1982 (Oualid Mouaness, US/Lebanon/Norway/Qatar) — Discovery

By Mark Asch / September 9, 2019

By Mark Asch Surely autobiographical, fortysomething Lebanese writer-director Oualid Mouaness’ debut fiction feature 1982 views the Israeli invasion into the then civil-warring nation from the unlikely, ultimately unpropitious vantage of an English-language private school in East Beirut at the end of the school year. Fifth-grader Wassim (Mohamad Dalli) scrambles to finish his exams and muster…

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Joker (Todd Phillips, US) — Gala Presentations

By Barbara Wurm / September 8, 2019

By Barbara Wurm Ed. note — even Cinema Scope, in the face of potential online wrath, must needs post a SPOILER warning before reviews of films such as this. The joker is not one, but three. A film, consisting of three, is usually a nuisance. Joker, splendidly directed by Todd Phillips and ingeniously performed by…

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My English Cousin (Karim Sayad, Switzerland/Qatar) — TIFF Docs

By Meg Shields / September 8, 2019

By Meg Shields My English Cousin is probably what it would actually feel like to be a fly on the wall: people scratch their asses, bicker harmlessly with loved ones, and pack and repack their bags. It’s a hard truth: most people just aren’t that interesting. The documentary follows director Karim Sayad’s cousin Fahed, who…

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Son-Mother (Mahnaz Mohammadi, Iran/Czech Republic) — Discovery

By Michael Scoular / September 8, 2019

By Michael Scoular Hours before leaving for Evin Prison to begin a five-year sentence, filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi shot a three-minute video. “I’ve got great anger in me,” she said, calling prison “a place where you are sentenced to go, even if you don’t deserve it.” Though there were petitions and a statement from Cannes, nothing…

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Guest of Honour (Atom Egoyan, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2019

By Adam Nayman The subtext of Atom Egoyan’s latest mid-late-career work is that you shouldn’t be mean to people online—a plaint that looks retrospectively prophetic in light of the film’s Venice reception, which included an attempted murder in the pages of Variety. Suffice it to say that Guest of Honour is not nearly so bad…

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Mariam (Sharipa Urazbayeva, Kazakhstan) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 8, 2019

By Robert Koehler  Shot in a stark, rural patch of Kazakhstan and contained inside the frame of a short story—quite often the best model for a feature screenplay to follow—Mariam tells the tale of a woman, wife, and mother who doesn’t realize that she must change her life until outside forces tell her so. Then,…

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Devil Between the Legs (Arturo Ripstein, Mexico/Spain) — Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 8, 2019

By Michael Sicinski Well folks, it’s September 2019, and here we have a late-breaking entry for Worst Film of the Decade. I’m not kidding, and I’m not levelling empty hyperbole. I have been a major supporter of director Arturo Ripstein and screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego in the past: The Beginning and the End (1993) and…

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Made in Bangladesh (Rubaiyat Hossain, France/Bangladesh/Denmark/Portugal) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Dana Reinoos / September 8, 2019

By Dana Reinoos Shimu, the 23-year-old protagonist of director Rubaiyat Hossain’s Made in Bangladesh, could be the face of global capitalism: a young woman who works punishing shifts at a textile factory for paltry wages on which she cannot even afford rice for herself and her unemployed husband. When a fire takes the life of…

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Incitement (Yaron Zilberman, Israel) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Angelo Muredda / September 8, 2019

By Angelo Muredda Israeli filmmaker Yaron Zilberman follows up A Late Quartet with Incitement, an unnerving recreation of the days leading up to Orthodox Jewish law student Yigal Amir’s assassination of then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for his integral role in the Oslo peace process. Offering another look into the social customs by which…

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I Am Not Alone (Garin Hovannisian, Armenia/US) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 8, 2019

By Michael Sicinski  An up-close, day-by-day chronicle of the 2018 Armenian revolution that deposed autocrat Serzh Sargsyan and brought reform-minded activist Niko Pashinyan to power, I Am Not Alone is a fascinating look at the contemporary structure of power and protest. While unabashedly pro-Pashinyan, the film reveals a bit more than it probably intends to…

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Waves (Trey Edward Shults, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2019

By Adam Nayman With Waves, Trey Edward Shults goes for broke; another way to put it is that he’s writing cheques that his filmmaking can’t cash. Even leaving aside the question (which I’m assuming will be asked at some point by somebody not otherwise participating in a standing ovation) about a white filmmaker aggressively melodramatizing…

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The Lost Okoroshi (Abba Makama, Nigeria) — Discovery

By Brendan Boyle / September 7, 2019

By Brendan Boyle Director Abba Makama displays an array of tones in his Lagos odyssey The Lost Okoroshi, which follows Raymond Obinwa (Seun Ajayi), a shiftless security worker who commutes to the city and, one morning, finds himself transformed in his bed into the voiceless purple spirit of his dreams. Stricken mute by his transformation,…

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American Woman (Semi Chellas, Canada) — Gala Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 7, 2019

By Angelo Muredda  TV-to-feature transitions are always a fraught jump for writers of sparkling, monologue-heavy prose, and Mad Men writer Semi Chellas’ American Woman is no exception. Faring a bit better than Chellas’ former boss Matthew Weiner’s dispiriting Are You Here but falling well short of the intimacy and idiosyncrasy of David Chase’s Not Fade…

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ZANA (Antoneta Kastrati, Albania/Kosovo) — Discovery

By Dana Reinoos / September 7, 2019

By Dana Reinoos Twenty years after the end of the Kosovo war, Kosovar filmmaker Antoneta Kastrati makes her narrative debut with ZANA, a fictionalized treatment of the deeply ingrained trauma still acutely felt by survivors. Lume (Adriana Matoshi, whose placid face explodes into rage and grief at unexpected moments) is married to Ilir (Astrit Kabashi);…

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Nobadi (Karl Markovics, Austria) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Courtney Duckworth / September 7, 2019

By Courtney Duckworth Karl Makovics’ Nobadi gestures toward revelations that never resonate. Ostensibly a culture-clash tale about a cantankerous (read: bigoted) old German man named Robert (Heinz Trixner) and an Afghani migrant (Borhanulddin Hassan Zadeh, embodying a gesture at politics more than a human being) who he contracts to bury his late companion, a fluffy…

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My Life as a Comedian (Rojda Sekersöz, Sweden/Belgium) — Discovery

By Meg Shields / September 7, 2019

By Meg Shields Within the first several minutes of My Life as a Comedian, it becomes readily apparent that something terrible is going to happen: the kind of inevitable third-act tragedy that leaves now-grown protagonists with weighty shoulders and instant recoil at the mention of hometowns. This is certainly the case with Juha, a now…

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Sea Fever (Neasa Hardiman, Ireland/Sweden/Belgium/UK) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2019

By Adam Nayman You learn something new every day: for instance, I didn’t know that redheads were considered bad luck on the open seas, hence the chilly reception for bookish ginger Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) aboard the trawler that’s hosting her solo marine-biological expedition. (“You need to get your hands dirty,” says a supervisor, foreshadowing plenty…

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Instinct (Halina Reijn, Netherlands) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 6, 2019

By Robert Koehler  Viewed strictly as a vehicle for Carice van Houten, who had a fine European film career for herself before all the world began to know her as Game of Thrones’ Red Queen, Instinct is a serviceable entry on the actor’s resume, but, as a credible psychodrama that pits a therapist against her…

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Maria’s Paradise (Zaida Bergroth, Finland/Estonia) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Anna Swanson / September 6, 2019

By Anna Swanson Director Zaida Bergroth’s film about a clairvoyant cult leader is unable to see that its strongest aspects are woefully underserved. The eponymous Maria (Pihla Viitala) is the leader of a religious sect who presents herself as having been visited by an angel that bestowed her with second sight. One of her most…

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Castle in the Ground (Joey Klein, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2019

By Adam Nayman The swift, ruinous descent from normalcy into substance abuse is hardly a subject lacking for cinematic treatment, and Joey Klein’s Castle in the Ground offers one more. In terms of casting, this Sudbury-set feature is above reproach, juxtaposing sad-eyed Henry (Alex Wolff, already an old hand at being put through the physical…

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The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão (Karim Aïnouz, Brazil/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jaclyn Bruneau / September 6, 2019

By Jaclyn Bruneau Karim Aïnouz has created a decadently frustrating, and thus accurate, study of longing, which begins as what seems like a coming-of-age story about two sisters in 1950s Brazil. One evening, Guida (Julia Stockler) asks Euridice (Carol Duarte) to cover for her so that she can slip through the back door to meet…

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State Funeral (Sergei Loznitsa, Netherlands/Lithuania) — Wavelengths

By Bob Kotyk / September 6, 2019

By Bob Kotyk The death of Joseph Stalin seems to have been so unthinkable that numbness and shock are almost all that can be gleaned from the faces of the dozens of mourners as they gather in plazas, pause from their work at job sites, or offer up bouquets in State Funeral, expert exhumer Sergei’s…

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Anne at 13,000 ft (Kazik Radwanski, Canada/US) — Platform

By Josh Cabrita / September 6, 2019

By Josh Cabrita Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) With his first two features, Tower (2012) and How Heavy This Hammer (2015), Toronto-based director and MDFF co-founder Kazik Radwanski established something of a recurring archetype: sad, lonely, and horny men whose unpleasant or uninteresting qualities are accentuated by the director’s unrelenting approach of shooting…

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Murmur (Heather Young, Canada) — Discovery

By Mallory Andrews / September 6, 2019

By Mallory Andrews Almost any movie featuring an animal doubles as a documentary about an animal that doesn’t know it’s in a movie—that is perhaps not the intended animating conflict of Murmur, but it’s the thought that most entered my mind most when watching the canine star of Heather Young’s docufiction first feature. Donna (Shan…

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Antigone (Sophie Deraspe, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jaclyn Bruneau / September 6, 2019

By Jaclyn Bruneau  Sophie Deraspe has picked up Sophocles’ eponymous tragedy and hurled it headlong into the present. Our orphaned heroine (Nahéma Ricci) immigrated to Montréal (from a home country never stated, in what is, I suppose, an attempt to level all Canadian immigrant experiences) as a child, along with her grandmother Ménécée, sister Ismène,…

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Billy (Zachary Epcar, US) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 6, 2019

By Phil Coldiron If one were to enumerate the major trends in sophisticated American filmmaking in the last decade, it seems to me that Zachary Epcar’s films would provide an adequate summary of such a list. In their wit, their formal restlessness, their sharp conception of certain stickier corners of the American psyche, they continue…

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2minutes40seconds (Han Ok-hee, South Korea) — Wavelengths

By Jesse Cumming / September 6, 2019

By Jesse Cumming Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) “There are two prejudices in pre-existing cinema: filmmaking is a male job and the movie should be fun. We, as outsiders, will break these biases.”—Han Ok-hee, 1974 In 1974, a group of students from the prestigious Ewha Womans University in Seoul formed South Korea’s first…

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Knuckle City (Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, South Africa) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Mallory Andrews / September 6, 2019

By Mallory Andrews South African director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s muscular sports/crime drama centres on aging, womanizing boxer Dudu Nyakama (Bongile Mantsai) and his criminal brother Duke (Thembekile Komani). Dudu, desperate for one last shot at fame and glory in the ring before retirement, enlists Duke’s help in finally becoming a contender—even if it means being…

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The Fever (Maya Da-Rin, Brazil/France/Germany) — Wavelengths

By Beatrice Loayza / September 5, 2019

By Beatrice Loayza In Brazilian documentarian Maya Da-Rin’s first feature film, an indigenous man, Justino (Regis Myrupu, weathered but warm) must reckon with his daughter’s impending departure to med school. A recent widower, Justino works as a cargo port watchman while his daughter, Vanessa (Rosa Peixoto), juggles several jobs at local clinics. Their lives are…

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Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello, France) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 5, 2019

By Jordan Cronk Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) Bertrand Bonello’s eighth feature, among his best and most daring, furthers his recent interest in the youth of contemporary France and the imprint of the country’s political history on the modern world. Set alternately in 1962 Haiti and present-day Paris, Zombi Child moves nimbly between…

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Comets (Tamar Shavgulidze, Georgia) — Discovery

By Madeleine Wall / September 5, 2019

By Madeleine Wall It is inevitable that any reunion will always be more than the sum of its parts. Tamar Shavgulidze‘s Comets is a slight drama where two childhood friends, Irina (Nino Kasradze) and Nana (Ketevan Gegeshidze), have their own Janus-faced meeting. The film begins in the domestic realm of Nana, who spends a morning…

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White Lie (Calvin Thomas & Yonah Lewis, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Madeleine Wall / September 5, 2019

By Madeleine Wall Taking place during a barren Hamilton winter, Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis’ White Lie is as intimate as it is claustrophobic. Katie (Kacey Rohl) is a cancer poster child, a star of local fundraisers and surrounded by supporters. But Katie begins her day shaving her head, her chemo appointments involve getting empty…

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Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda, France) — Special Events

By Jaclyn Bruneau / September 5, 2019

By Jaclyn Bruneau “I enjoyed setting up an enigma for which only I knew the secret,” says Agnès Varda from her throne-like seat atop a dolly, pushed along a track in a wide-open field by a technician, in an allusion to the landscapes of her Vagabond (1985). The tender-hearted irony of this utterance is that…

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The Platform (Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, Spain) — Midnight Madness

By Angelo Muredda / September 5, 2019

By Angelo Muredda A pitch in search of a movie to ground it, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform never amounts to more than the sum of its parts, but fans of high-concept science fiction such as Cube and Snowpiercer may nevertheless appreciate the sheer number of those parts in a film that teems with ideas, but…

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A Girl Missing (Koji Fukada, Japan/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Elena Lazic / September 5, 2019

By Elena Lazic A Girl Missing opens on Ichiko (Mariko Tsutsui), a mysterious middle-aged woman whose strange actions are progressively explained in long flashbacks to her former life. In the present, she is a seductive femme fatale living alone in an empty flat, who only ever smiles in the most polite and artifical way and…

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Africa (Oren Gerner, Israel) — Discovery

By Beatrice Loayza / September 5, 2019

By Beatrice Loayza The halcyon days of a recent vacation to Namibia linger in the mind of retiree and former engineer Meir (Meir Gerner), the grumbling 68-year-old father of the filmmaker whose depressingly impotent mad scramble to regain purpose in life is the subject of this debut feature. Working in the space between fiction and…

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It Must Be Heaven (Elia Suleiman, France/Qatar/Germany/Canada/Palestine/Turkey) — Masters

By Richard Porton / September 5, 2019

By Richard Porton Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) In conversations addressing the plight of what was once known as the “Third World,” one of the central debates still involves the inevitable tension between nationalism—as well as the quest for national identity—and the rather amorphous concept known as “cosmopolitanism.” In the Palestinian intellectual milieu,…

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Liberté (Albert Serra, France/Spain/Portugal/Germany) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 5, 2019

  By Phil Coldiron Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) —I feel like prey. —Perhaps soon you won’t anymore. If there is a dialectical movement to be found in Albert Serra’s decidedly non-dialectical films, it is in the relationship they figure between movement and stasis. Firm in the belief, or delusion, that “chivalry is…

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The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio, Italy) — Masters

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 5, 2019

By Celluloid Liberation Front Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) “The most beautiful film is our own history,” confessed Marco Bellocchio to a journalist following the release of The Traitor, after it surpassed Godzilla: King of the Monsters at the Italian box office, proving yet again that the Mafia movie is still a commodity…

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Black Conflux (Nicole Dorsey, Canada) — Discovery

By Mallory Andrews / September 4, 2019

By Mallory Andrews A “conflux” or confluence is the juncture where two rivers meet, seamlessly connecting into a single body. This convergence becomes a recurring visual motif in Nicole Dorsey’s small-town coming-of-age story set in 1980s Newfoundland, a portent of the coming collision between its two main characters, teenage Jackie (Ella Ballentine) and intense loner…

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Blow the Man Down (Danielle Krudy & Bridget Savage Cole, US) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2019
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Les Misérables (Ladj Ly, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Manuela Lazic / September 4, 2019

By Manuela Lazic  The extreme tension between residents and police in the French banlieues seems to push the boldest filmmakers to go beyond the gritty realism that typical “urban” stories often cling to. Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine not only adopted black-and-white photography and a propulsive editing style, but also primitive drone shooting: a camera placed…

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Deerskin (Quentin Dupieux, France) — Special Presentations

By Elena Lazic / September 4, 2019

By Elena Lazic  We all remember Flat Eric, the creepily expressionless yellow puppet turned music-video star, sitting at a huge office desk and bopping along to Quentin Dupieux’s international hit “Flat Beat” while signing contracts, taking phone calls, and doing all the things a businessman does. Twenty years and seven feature films later, the French…

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143 Sahara Street (Hassen Ferhani, Algeria) — Wavelengths

By James Lattimer / September 4, 2019

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) Hassen Ferhani’s crowd-pleasing second feature is an example of a familiar format being executed with such intelligence and clarity that you wonder why it happens so rarely. The entire film is built around a woman almost as formidable as Vitalina Varela, and just as much…

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SaF05 (Charlotte Prodger, UK) — Wavelengths

By Erika Balsom / September 4, 2019

By Erika Balsom  Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) For Scotland’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Charlotte Prodger delivered the final installment in a trilogy of films begun with Stoneymollan Trail (2015) and her Turner Prize-winning BRIDGIT (2016). SaF05 is named after a maned lioness, a rare creature in Botswana that adopts typically male…

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I Was At Home, But… (Angela Schanelec, Germany/Serbia) — Masters

By Giovanni Marchini Camia / September 4, 2019

By Giovanni Marchini Camia Published in Cinema Scope #78 (Spring 2019) It’s outrageous that it should have taken until 2019 for Angela Schanelec to make it into the Berlinale Competition—and ironic, given that it was a review of her film Passing Summer (2001), published in Die Zeit, that originated the term “Berliner Schule.” That film…

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Fire Will Come (Oliver Laxe, Spain/France/Luxembourg) — Wavelengths

By Azadeh Jafari / September 4, 2019

By Azadeh Jafari Published in Cinema Scope # 80 (Fall 2019) After two films set in Morocco—You Are All Captains (2010) and the Cannes Critics Week winner Mimosas (2016)—French-born Spanish filmmaker Oliver Laxe returns to his parents’ homeland of Galicia for his third feature, Fire Will Come, which the director has called a “dry melodrama.”…

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Synonyms (Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 4, 2019

By Robert Koehler Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) Like an alien dropping out of the sky, Yoav, the hero of Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms, is introduced as a being without a home, a purpose, or even clothes. As he scrambles naked around a vacant Parisian apartment, his strong, lean, athletic body mitigates his desperate…

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The Wild Goose Lake (Diao Yinan, China/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Azadeh Jafari / September 3, 2019

By Azadeh Jafari In his new crime thriller, Diao Yinan returns to the noir tropes and bleak atmosphere of his 2014 Golden Bear winner Black Coal, Thin Ice to tell the story of on-the-run cop-killer gangster Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge), who gets involved with a mysterious prostitute, Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun-Mei). The film begins with…

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The Father (Petar Valchanov & Kristina Grozeva, Bulgaria/Greece/Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 3, 2019

By Michael Sicinski  In essence, The Father is a Bulgarian Alexander Payne film, and so you should adjust your expectations accordingly. Directors Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva (whose film The Lesson played TIFF back in 2014) combine melancholic family shenanigans with the kinds of broad comic gestures you can see coming a mile away. The…

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Corpus Christi (Jan Komasa, Poland/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Beatrice Loayza / September 3, 2019

By Beatrice Loayza Jan Komasa does redemption à la Paul Schrader in this tale of the sacred and the profane, which follows a 20-year-old ex-con, Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia), who poses as a priest in a small Polish town. While some presumably symbolic moments (a burning pyre, a climactic disrobing) register as self-administered profundity, Corpus Christi…

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The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2019

By Adam Nayman That Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe mutually lose their shit over the duration of The Lighthouse is not a spoiler: sequestered together off the coast of Nova Scotia in a lighthouse (also not a spoiler) with little more than a pot to piss in (and there is a lot of pissing in…

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Sibyl (Justine Triet, France/Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Manuela Lazic / September 3, 2019

By Manuela Lazic  After her terrific 2016 feature Victoria, Justine Triet continues her exploration of the female psyche and body with Sibyl, once again casting the great Virginie Efira as her heroine. Sybil is a psychiatrist who retires early to focus on her original dream of being a writer. But aren’t the personal histories of…

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A White, White Day (Hlynur Pálmason, Iceland/Denmark/Sweden) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Dana Reinoos / September 3, 2019

By Dana Reinoos When the Icelandic fog is particularly thick and obscures the landscape, the dead can speak to the living—so says the eerie epigraph that opens Hlynur Pálmason’s A White, White Day, which unfolds as a meditation on grief and violence. It’s this kind of dense fog that can cause a car to slide…

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Endless Night (Eloy Enciso, Spain) — Wavelengths

By James Lattimer / September 3, 2019

By James Lattimer Eloy Enciso’s third feature unfolds as a series of conversations conducted at various locations within an unnamed city, most of which are public: outside a church, in a bus, at the bus station, in the bar, in the office of the prospective mayor. These conversations revolve around the current state of life,…

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The Whistlers (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania/France/Germany) — Masters

By Mark Peranson / September 3, 2019

By Mark Peranson An entertaining film-festival outlier, Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Whistlers seemed to have been punished at Cannes for being a change of form for Porumboiu: it’s a rollicking film that, on its surface, doesn’t appear to fit into any dominant narrative, whether we are talking the historical development of the Romanian New Wave or…

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Atlantics (Mati Diop, France/Senegal/Belgium) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jesse Cumming / September 3, 2019

By Jesse Cumming Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) In 2012, when French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop pitched her anticipated debut feature Atlantics as part of Locarno’s Open Doors initiative, the film went by the title Fire Next Time. While much in the film has changed in the time between its initial conception and its…

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Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles, Brazil) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 3, 2019

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) Kleber Mendonça Filho’s ongoing quest to sound out the tensions of contemporary Brazil takes a turn at once more strident and more oblique in Bacurau, an exhilaratingly jittery mash-up of genres and moods co-directed with Juliano Dornelles, the production designer for his two previous features.…

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Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello, Italy/France) — Platform

By Jordan Cronk / September 3, 2019

By Jordan Cronk Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) Pietro Marcello’s decade-long evolution from idiosyncratic film essayist to grand narrative storyteller represents one of the most significant artistic flowerings in contemporary cinema. Recently unveiled in competition at Venice, the Italian filmmaker’s fifth feature, Martin Eden, is momentous in ways that many Marcello enthusiasts may…

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This Action Lies (James N. Kienitz Wilkins, US/Switzlerand) — Wavelengths

By Dan Sullivan / September 2, 2019

By Dan Sullivan Published in Cinema Scope #78 (Spring 2019) “The way I see it, movies move,” James N. Kienitz Wilkins declares in his monologue film This Action Lies (2018), made for Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève’s Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement. A styrofoam cup of coffee is viewed several times, with fluctuations in gradient distinguishing…

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Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 2, 2019

By Angelo Muredda  In Pain and Glory, Pedro Almódovar burrows further into his late-style period with all the “intransigence, difficulty and unresolved contradiction” Edward Said promised, with an equally frank and flattering self-portrait of the artist as an aging Antonio Banderas. Though a decade younger and a good deal handsomer than the auteur behind the…

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Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, US) — Special Presentations

By Clara Miranda / September 2, 2019

By Clara Miranda Scherffig Marriage Story opens with a close up of Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) with her neck wrapped in a black turtleneck and her blond hair cut short. She is on a stage, being directed by Charlie (Adam Driver), her close collaborator, as well as her husband. Like the overlap between the protagonists’ professional…

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The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson, US) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2019

By Adam Nayman The more things change, the more they stay the same, and the conspiracy-minded 1950s resonate in a zeitgeist in which everything feels accessible and occluded at the same time. Between the suspicious suicide of Jeffrey Epstein and its ostensible connections to the making of Eyes Wide Shut (and the death of Stanley…

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Krabi 2562 (Anocha Suwichakornpong & Ben Rivers, Thailand/UK) — Wavelengths

By Robert Koehler / September 2, 2019

By Robert Koehler Since Ben Rivers is credited as co-director of Krabi 2562, there could be the assumption that this is another “Ben Rivers film.” The many instances in this project where assumptions are wrong start here, because Rivers has completely given himself over to his collaborator, the gifted Anocha Suwichakornpong, who is absolutely the…

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La belle époque (Nicolas Bedos, France) — Special Presentations

By Daniel Reynolds / September 2, 2019

By Daniel Reynolds Nicolas Bedos’ second feature intends to evoke the feel of a classic screwball comedy, albeit one with a modern twist in both production and subject matter. The film’s rapid-fire dialogue is a throwback, yet the quick-cutting, handheld camerawork and light commentary on our technologically mediated relationships pushes it somewhere new. While nostalgia…

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Love Me Tender (Klaudia Reynicke, Switzerland) — Discovery

By Michael Scoular / September 2, 2019

By Michael Scoular At the level of plot, Klaudia Reynicke’s second feature never deviates from its empowerment narrative. After putting on a comfortable one-piece tracksuit and putting away hope her family will safeguard her every move, an agoraphobic millennial steps outside and overcomes obstacles, all while retaining her abstract annoyance at the world. But with…

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Pelican Blood (Katrin Gebbe, Germany/Bulgaria) — Special Presentations

By Brendan Boyle / September 2, 2019

By Brendan Boyle  Early in Katrin Gebbe’s Pelican Blood, an abrupt edit takes the viewer to the scene of a clash between police and rioters. Smoke hangs in the air and the mounted police struggle to control their horses. After a moment it becomes clear that the scene is being staged: the rioters are only…

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Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another (Jessica Sarah Rinland, UK/Argentina/Spain) — Wavelengths

By Darren Hughes / September 2, 2019

By Darren Hughes Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) A key to Jessica Sarah Rinland’s newest film, Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another, can be found in the closing credits: along with cinematography, editing, and foley, Rinland is credited as “Voice” and “Pink-Nailed Ceramicist” (the nail designer is also credited). When we first…

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Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea) — Special Presentations

By Adam Cook / September 2, 2019

By Adam Cook Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) Precisely a decade after his last film shot and produced in South Korea, Bong Joon Ho returns to a place that feels both familiar and unfamiliar with his Palme d’Or-crowned Parasite. Moving beyond the ambitious, overly conceptual, and uneven international co-productions Snowpiercer and Okja, Parasite…

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Heimat Is a Space in Time (Thomas Heise, Germany/Austria) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 2, 2019

By Michael Sicinski Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) “Archaeology is about Digging” is the title of an essay by Thomas Heise, included in the DVD booklet for several of his films, including the 2009 film Material, a key film in terms of raising Heise’s profile outside of Europe. In the essay, the filmmaker…

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Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, Portugal) — Wavelengths

By Haden Guest / September 2, 2019

By Haden Guest Published in Cinema Scope #80 (Fall 2019) A moving study of mourning and memory, Pedro Costa’s revelatory new film offers an indelible portrait of Vitalina Taveres Varela, a fragile yet indomitable woman who makes the long voyage from Cape Verde to Lisbon to attend her estranged husband’s funeral, but misses the event…

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Good Work: Lev Lewis, Yonah Lewis, and Calvin Thomas’ Spice It Up

By Angelo Muredda / August 12, 2019

By Angelo Muredda Spice It Up screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, August 15 as part of MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF. “Spice what up?” a film professor played by Cinema Scope’s own Adam Nayman asks with disinterest early in Lev Lewis, Yonah Lewis, and Calvin Thomas’ smart and puckishly funny…

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Through the Looking-Glass: Tsai Ming-liang’s Your Face

By Adam Cook / May 13, 2019

By Adam Cook In his 30-year career, the now 61-year old Tsai Ming-liang has made an entire oeuvre centred upon the practice of looking. Such a statement may seem like a given for any filmmaker, but Tsai’s particular formalist tendency of slowly developing long takes has always placed an emphasis on the dynamism of unfolding…

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Shadow of a Doubt: Andrea Bussmann’s Fausto and Lina Rodriguez’s Ante Mis Ojos

By Demitra Kampakis / April 15, 2019

  By Demitra Kampakis Now more than ever, the perilous state of our dying planet and its precarious global landscape demand a seismic reexamination of how we’ve engaged with the world, and the ways in which capitalism has ushered in society’s geological, moral and spiritual rot. As our environmental anxieties increasingly shift into existential ones,…

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Landscape without Figures: Helena Wittmann’s Drift and Sofia Bohdanowicz’s The Soft Space

By Phoebe Chen / March 11, 2019

By Phoebe Chen Helena Wittmann’s Drift screens with Sofia Bohdanowicz’s The Soft Space at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, March 14 as part of MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF. Creation myths have a suspect, anthropocentric charm—supposedly, the cosmos heaves, slow and indifferent, until one day, it makes itself amenable to human narration.…

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Mothers of Invention: Ana Urushadze’s Scary Mother and Rolla Tahir’s Sira

By Ela Bittencourt / February 13, 2019

By Ela Bittencourt Ana Urushadze’s Scary Mother and Rolla Tahir’s Sira screen at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, February 14 as part of MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF. A tense, seemingly “realistic” family drama that, in its absurdist, uncanny accents, betrays an affinity to more fantastical storytelling and existentialist literature (particularly Franz…

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What’s Out of Frame: Kazik Radwanski’s Scaffold and Ricky D’Ambrose’s Notes on an Appearance

By Adam Cook / January 15, 2019

By Adam Cook Scaffold and Notes on an Appearance screen together on Thursday, January 17 at TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the screening series MDFF Selects: Presented by Cinema Scope and TIFF. With his two most recent short films, Cutaway (2014) and Scaffold (2017), Toronto-based filmmaker Kazik Radwanski has deliberately offered an alternative formal…

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Black Picture Show: On Khalik Allah’s Black Mother

By Lydia Ogwang / December 6, 2018

By Lydia Ogwang Khalik Allah has staged two homecomings in as many documentary features. In Field Niggas (2015), the New York-based photographer and filmmaker took his camera to the streets of Harlem, capturing slow-motion footage of nighttime life at 125th and Lexington. The scene was familiar to Allah, who frequented the area in his adolescence…

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Game Theory: Corneliu Porumboiu’s Infinite Football

By Adam Cook / November 22, 2018

By Adam Cook Corneliu Porumboiu’s new documentary, like The Second Game (2014), is again fixated on soccer. Infinite Football mostly consists of the director in conversation with his friend Laurentiu Ginghina, who has some ideas about how to give the beautiful game what he considers to be a much-needed makeover. First, we hear his tale…

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On the Outskirts: Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s Interchange

By Madeleine Wall / October 9, 2018

By Madeleine Wall Signs of progress involve mobility, whether in the form of a shorter commute, or simply the ability to go farther, faster. As a city grows, its populations move from one point to another, and some spaces only exist as transitory places. Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s Interchange focuses on the spaces…

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The Land of Steady Habits (Nicole Holofcener, US) — Special Presentations

By Steve Macfarlane / September 19, 2018

By Steve Macfarlane Every day is a film festival on Netflix, and so Nicole Holofcener’s unfortunately-titled The Land of Steady Habits (I guess it’s a slang phrase for Connecticut) touches down as the lights adorning #TIFF18 are finally unplugged. Even if Steady Habits weren’t, as trade critics like to say, “better than it has any…

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The Vice of Hope (Edoardo de Angelis, Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 18, 2018

By Michael Sicinski The Vice of Hope gets its title from a rather sanitized version of a phrase spoken several times during the course of the film. What the characters are actually referring to is “the bullshit of hope,” and although Edoardo de Angelis’ film does end on a somewhat upbeat note, there is no…

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Roads in February (Katherine Jerkovic, Canada/Uruguay) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 16, 2018

  By Josh Cabrita When Sarah (Arlen Aguayo Stewart) arrives in South America during the month of February there is a natural contrast between her original location and eventual destination—for just as her home in Montreal is being lambasted by the flurries of Quebec winter, her grandmother’s village in Uruguay is enjoying the blistering heat…

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The Wind (Emma Tammi, US) — Midnight Madness

By Madeleine Wall / September 16, 2018

By Madeleine Wall Not unlike its South-shall-rise-again predecessor from 90 years ago, Emma Tammi’s The Wind pits woman against landscape, and when confronted with what little remains of Western civilization, things begin to unravel. Tough to the point of being worn down, Elizabeth Macklin (Caitlin Gerard) first appears in the doorway of her home, covered…

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The Stone Speakers (Igor Drljaca, Canada/Bosnia & Herzegovina) — Wavelengths

By Pedro Segura / September 16, 2018

By Pedro Segura As in Krivina and The Waiting Room, Igor Drljaca explores identity concerns and still-dormant wounds inherited from the Yugoslavian Civil War in The Stone Speakers, his first documentary feature, in which the observational analysis of tourism allows him to explore nationalism by its manipulative fictional bases. With a clinical and distant approach…

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Summer Survivors (Marija Kavtaradze, Lithuania) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 16, 2018

By Michael Sicinski Welcome to Lithium-uania. This downcast, unassuming road movie is a small peak into the lives of ordinary young people who are losing the best years of their lives to mental illness, constantly wavering between a desire to accept help and a countervailing impulse they can’t necessarily trust. Are they actually better? Is…

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The Good Girls (Alejandra Márquez Abella, Mexico) — Platform

By Pedro Segura / September 15, 2018

By Pedro Segura In 1983, a year after the most shocking economic crisis in Mexico’s recent history, the writer and journalist Guadalupe Loaeza published in a now-defunct national newspaper an article that enunciated, with clinical description, a compendium of young, unconscious, and shallow bourgeois women of that time that could be categorized, ironically, under the…

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The Man Who Feels No Pain (Vasan Balan, India) — Midnight Madness

By Michael Sicinski / September 15, 2018

By Michael Sicinski It’s a clever enough premise for an action-comedy. Surya (Abhimanyu Dassani) is born with a rare condition that doesn’t allow him to experience pain. And though this makes his childhood something of a minefield, short-circuiting the usual learning curve by which the rest of us humans learn to survive, it eventually leads…

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Reason (Anand Patwardhan, India) — TIFF Docs

By Steve Macfarlane / September 15, 2018

By Steve Macfarlane Every TIFF features at least one epic-length historical documentary whose subject matter is way too depressing to penetrate the fog of cinephile and awards-season discussions encircling the neighbouring Town Crier, but kicks around in the back of the mind as probably advisable viewing anyway. Once I realized it was on the lineup,…

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Her Job (Nikos Labôt, France/Greece/Serbia) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 15, 2018

By Michael Sicinski It’s certainly not news to anyone that the economic downturn of recent years has been particularly hard on the Greeks. But Her Job presumes that we won’t get the severity of the situation unless we watch a virtual simpleton get kicked like a dog by family and employer alike. This is a…

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Mouthpiece (Patricia Rozema, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Girish Shambu / September 14, 2018

By Girish Shambu One idea has persisted in film culture for nearly 75 years: that of the “auteur” as a lone genius who not only directs his [sic] films, but also conceives of and writes them himself. The results on the ground of this notion have been, shall we say, mixed. Take, for example, Olivier…

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Ulysses & Mona (Sébastien Betbeder, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Joseph Pomp / September 14, 2018

By Joseph Pomp A young art student develops a morbid fixation on a washed-up artist and offers her apprentice services in an effort to lure him back out into the world—how in the world could this premise fall flat? In a few ways that Ulysses & Mona indeed sees through, such as by wallowing in…

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Orange Days (Arash Lahooti, Iran) — Discovery

By Robert Koehler / September 14, 2018

By Robert Koehler For the first several minutes of Orange Days, the script by director Arash Lahooti and writer Jamileh Darolshafaie tries to be mysterious about the livelihood of a woman named Aban (veteran Iranian star Hedieh Tehrani, whose name the TIFF program notes consistently misspell). The big reveal is that she supervises an orange grove…

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Angels Are Made of Light (James Longley, US/Afghanistan) — TIFF Docs

By Steve Macfarlane / September 14, 2018

By Steve Macfarlane James Longley’s unfortunately titled Afghanistan documentary Angels Are Made of Light spans three years in the lives of a handful of schoolchildren (all boys) in Kabul. It’s a significant achievement in the gathering of footage, shot by the filmmaker himself, who manages to give ordinary day-to-day moments a sheen that’s elegant to the point…

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Saf (Ali Vatansever, Turkey/Germany/Romania) — Discovery

By Angelo Muredda / September 14, 2018

By Angelo Muredda Ali Vatansever takes a stab at an Asghar Farhadi-style overdetermined drama about tired people in impossible situations with his second feature Saf. The film tells the two-part story of Kamil (Erol Afsin) and Remziye (Saadet Isil Aksoy), a working-class Turkish couple who struggle to live with dignity in the shadow of an…

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Fig Tree (Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian, Germany/Ethiopia/France/Israel) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 14, 2018

By Michael Sicinski Sometimes debut films are actually frustrating because of the promise they show: I find myself wishing I could skip ahead to the next film, which is almost certain to be richer and more fully realized. But anyone who has ever worked in the creative arts in any capacity knows that this isn’t…

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Driven (Nick Hamm, Puerto Rico/UK/US) — Special Presentations

By Jennifer Lynde Barker / September 14, 2018

By Jennifer Lynde Barker Driven announces itself as a biopic of John DeLorean, but we don’t learn much about the auto exec and innovator in the film; instead, director Nick Hamm and screenwriter Colin Bateman focus on the 1982 FBI investigation into DeLorean’s possible drug trafficking. The real protagonist of the film is DeLorean’s friend…

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Our Body (Han Ka-ram, South Korea) — Discovery

By Madeleine Wall / September 14, 2018

By Madeleine Wall Adrift in a South Korea where professional advancement appears to be the only option, lonely, 31-year-old Ja-young (Moon Choi) has a chance encounter one evening with the beautiful and enigmatic runner Hyun-joo (Ahn Ji-hye), who inspires Ja-young to ditch the civil service exam she’s spent years studying for and move out. But…

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The Truth About Killer Robots (Maxim Pozdorovkin, US) — TIFF Docs

By Robert Koehler / September 13, 2018

By Robert Koehler In the span of eight months, nonfiction filmmaker Maxim Pozdorovkin has produced two features on what are, on paper, vital topics: Our New President, which premiered at Sundance, addresses his native Russia’s gullible openness to the Putin propaganda machine’s relentless promotion of Donald Trump before and after his US election; now, with…

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Before the Frost (Michael Noer, Denmark) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2018

By Michael Sicinski The latest from Michael Noer (Papillon) exists just on the right side of the dividing line between stodgy and well-appointed; in fact, it is so classically constructed in terms of plot and character organization that I was surprised to learn that it is based on an original screenplay (by Noer and Jesper…

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The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (Xavier Dolan, Canada/UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2018

By Adam Nayman It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life: that’s the thesis (and arguably the most expensive-to-license hook, assuming friend-of-the-director Adele offered hers for free) in Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. A famously troubled production that fired one of its two biggest stars via Instagram and betrays scars of that…

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Redemption (Boaz Yehonatan Yacov & Joseph Madmony, Israel) — Contemporary Word Cinema)

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2018

By Michael Sicinski Or, Hey, I Know I’m Hassidic Now But Let’s Get the Band Back Together! A charming film that operates quite modestly despite the life-and-death stakes it depicts, Redemption is cinematic comfort food, reasonably predictable in its arc but acted and written well enough to prevent familiarity from lapsing into contempt. Menachem (Moshe…

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The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Henry Dunham, US) — Midnight Madness

By Elena Lazic / September 13, 2018

By Elena Lazic Set almost entirely in a single warehouse and focused on a group of criminals and undercover cops quickly undone by suspicion, Henry Dunham’s debut feature is undeniably inspired by Reservoir Dogs. Yet far being from a simple homage or a poor copy, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek only takes Tarantino’s film as…

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Vision (Naomi Kawase, Japan/France) — Special Presentations

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2018

By Michael Sicinski Despite the presence of an international superstar (Juliette Binoche) for the first time in Naomi Kawase’s filmography, Vision will not convert anyone to the Kawase cause. That’s because this new film doubles down on all the elements that so many critics find off-putting about Kawase’s cinema, especially a spiritual sensibility that, in…

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Maya (Mia Hansen-Løve, France) — Special Presentations

By Lawrence Garcia / September 13, 2018

By Lawrence Garcia In bald description, Mia Hansen-Løve’s follow-up to L’Avenir (2016) might seem a rather distasteful (or at least misguided) affair: Gabriel (Roman Kolinka), a French war correspondent recently released from Syrian captivity, returns to his childhood home in India, where he falls in love with the title character (Aarshi Banerjee), his godfather’s young…

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Sew the Winter to My Skin (Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, South Africa/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 12, 2018

By Robert Koehler If 2018 may be remembered as the year when the movies finally realized that Afro-futurism was a viable genre, it may also be remembered as the year when the African Western finally got some mojo. It’s been a long, long time since Moustapha Alassane’s The Return of an Adventurer (1966), and on…

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What is Democracy? (Astra Taylor, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2018

By Michael Sicinski The latest philosophical documentary by Astra Taylor (Examined Life, Zizek!) takes on a very timely question, one she can’t be faulted for failing to answer in just under two hours. However, What is Democracy? does suffer from a rather scattershot approach, as though the sheer monumentality of the problem undermined the clear…

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Baby (Liu Jie, China) — Special Presentations

By Shelly Kraicer / September 12, 2018

By Shelly Kraicer Social melodramas are a mainstream genre in Chinese cinema, in both state-approved and indie flavours, but they are not usually realized as adeptly and creatively as Liu Jie manages with his seventh feature Baby. Liu is no stranger to this kind of socially aware, ethically engaged filmmaking that follows in the tradition…

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The Most Beautiful Couple (Sven Taddicken, Germany/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2018

By James Lattimer Without the joys of coincidence and bad decision-making, The Most Beautiful Couple would barely have a plot, even if the film fails to commit to them sufficiently to go all-out trashy. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Sven Taddicken’s perversely entertaining drama surrenders to silliness, although an ill-advised third-act cover of Radiohead’s…

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Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya/South Africa/France/Lebanon/Norway/ Netherlands/Germany) — Discovery

By Sarah-Tai Black / September 12, 2018

By Sarah-Tai Black Firsts are almost always in some measure definitive. To be the first Kenyan film to ever premiere at Cannes, as Wanuri Kahiu’s newest feature film Rafiki was, is to be placed under an incredible weight of expectation. To be banned in your home country due to a supposed “intent to promote lesbianism”…

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Hidden Man (Jiang Wen, China) — Gala Presentations

By Shelly Kraicer / September 12, 2018

By Shelly Kraicer Jiang Wen’s Hidden Man poses challenges for viewers (Chinese as well as foreign), but careful watching has its rewards. The third installment in Jiang’s informal trilogy about an idiosyncratically spectacularized fictional history of Republican China—which started with Let the Bullets Fly (2010) and continued with Gone With the Bullets (2014)—Hidden Man is the least flamboyant, visually: it’s an…

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Freedom Fields (Naziha Arebi, Libya) — Platform

By Madeleine Wall / September 12, 2018

By Madeleine Wall Taking place over the four long years after the Arab Spring, Naziha Arebi’s documentary Freedom Fields tracks the changes, and the lack thereof, after revolutionary fervour calms down. The film focuses on a group of young women attempting to become Libya’s first all-female soccer team and who, despite their best intentions, end…

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Never Look Away (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany/Italy) — Special Presentations

By Stefan Grissemann / September 12, 2018

By Stefan Grissemann The childhood and early career of German superstar painter Gerhard Richter is given a very free rendering in this three-hour-plus drama that tries to short-circuit Nazi euthanasia programs with a crash course on postwar avant-garde art. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director of the Oscar-winning GDR retaliation The Lives of Others (2006), now…

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Meeting Gorbachev (Werner Herzog & André Singer, Germany/UK/US) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2018

By Michael Sicinski While Errol Morris is busy sitting down with unrepentant fascists, Werner Herzog is making time with one of the key figures of the 20th century, a leader so visionary that he essentially reformed himself right out of a job. This is not to say that Meeting Gorbachev is a free meeting of…

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If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, USA) — Special Presentations

By Sarah-Tai Black / September 11, 2018

By Sarah-Tai Black There is perhaps no contemporary filmmaker better suited to adapting the work of James Baldwin than Barry Jenkins. Much like Jenkins, Baldwin’s work is less expository than it is a feeling made concrete: a translation of black consciousness, space, and time into words that are as generous as they are unambiguous. His…

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The Chambermaid (Lila Avilés, Mexico) — Discovery

By Steve Macfarlane / September 11, 2018

By Steve Macfarlane So-called “world cinema” is a dicey game. Lab-incubated dramas addressing capital-I Important issues can betray the subject matter in a direct plea for festival-land relevance (or, worse, culminate in an Iñárritu-style call to arms), and often land squarely in the middle: ungalvanizing as agitprop, pedantic as cinema. It’s rare to sit through…

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Halloween (David Gordon Green, US) — Midnight Madness

By Mallory Andrews / September 11, 2018

By Mallory Andrews The story goes that director David Gordon Green approached Jamie Lee Curtis with an idea for a Halloween sequel she apparently deemed too good to pass up: toss out the 40 years’ worth of sequels, and make Laurie Strode’s return to the screen a direct continuation of John Carpenter’s 1978 original. Green’s…

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Beautiful Boy (Felix van Groeningen, US) — Gala Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 11, 2018

By Robert Koehler Beautiful Boy plays it safe with the details of the true story of meth addict Nic Sheff and his father, freelance writer David Sheff. At the same time, the movie risks danger with a time-jumping, memory-driven editing scheme that overlaps sound and image in ways that have generally been all but forgotten…

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The Factory (Yury Bykov, Armenia/France/Russia) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2018

By Michael Sicinski A slice of social criticism so direct that it’s hard to believe it could be made inside Putin’s Russia, The Factory is also a cracking actioner of the first order. Young auteur Yury Bykov (The Major, The Fool) has imbibed lessons from both his black-hearted Russian compatriots (the late Aleksei Balabanov, especially)…

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Tito and the Birds (Gustavo Steinberg, Gabriel Bitar & André Catoto, Brazil) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2018

By Michael Sicinski Here’s a film that’s virtually guaranteed to snag one of those fourth or fifth slots in the Oscar race for Best Animated Feature: those films that almost nobody has heard of even by the time of the broadcast and that are put in place to serve as also-rans against that year’s big-budget…

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22 July (Paul Greengrass, Norway/Iceland/USA) — Special Presentations

By Stefan Grissemann / September 11, 2018

By Stefan Grissemann The only mild surprise that 22 July has in store is its narrative emphasis. After 32 minutes, the horrific acts (the bomb in Oslo, the massacre on Utøya Island) are all done, the teenage corpses have piled up, and Norway has plunged into a deep political and moral crisis—leaving 101 more minutes…

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Complicity (Kei Chikaura, Japan/China) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Shot in a coldly minimal documentary style, complete with shaky camera, Complicity opens with a group of Chinese illegal immigrants in Japan stealing machinery at night to buy ID cards. The look of the film connotes a certain energy: distant, cerebral, utilitarian. Despite its aesthetic, Kei Chikaura’s debut feature is anything but.…

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Clara (Akash Sherman, Canada) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Crumbling under the grief of a lost child and subsequent divorce, astronomer Isaac (Patrick J. Adams) throws himself into searching for extraterrestrial life, with research assistant Clara (the actor’s real-life wife Troian Bellisario) slowly opening him up to new possibilities. Characters question what could be more important than finding alien life, while…

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Shadow (Zhang Yimou, China) — Gala Presentations

By Shelly Kraicer / September 11, 2018

By Shelly Kraicer After essaying several genres (period history, period comedy, historical melodrama, international epic) in the last 15 years, Zhang Yimou has returned to something like Hero’s (2002) combination of imperial court and wuxia spectacle. Shadow tones down that earlier film’s concentration on the morality of loyalty to state power in favour of a…

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Divine Wind (Merzak Allouache, Algeria/France/Lebanon/Qatar) — Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2018

By Michael Sicinski The latest film from veteran Algerian director Merzak Allouache is tonally strange. Quiet and stilted, it exhibits an overall seriousness that’s firmly in keeping with its subject: suicide bombers and the warped ideologies that drive them on. At the same time, there is such an exaggeratedly fraught relationship between the two main…

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EXT. Night (Ahmad Abdalla, Egypt/U.A.E.) — Contemporary World Cinema)

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2018

  By Michael Sicinski Although EXT. Night is not a particularly enjoyable film, credit is certainly due. Few movies are as successful in communicating the protagonist’s point of view to the spectator through structure and form. As you watch, you’ll wonder how Abdalla got you from the opening scenes, which so clearly promise an affable…

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High Life (Claire Denis, Germany/ France/US/UK/Poland) — Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2018

By Adam Nayman There is a shot of an infant being carried by its father in Claire Denis’ L’intrus that may be the most rapt and tender image of its kind I’ve ever seen in a film. The first ten minutes of High Life are an extension and an elaboration of that shot, observing Monte…

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Screwdriver (Bassam Jarbawi, Palestine/US/Qatar) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2018

By James Lattimer Screwdriver burns through so much narrative in its first 20 minutes that the various steps in how Ziad (Ziad Bakri) goes from being an innocent child to a world-weary adult feel more like a blur than a necessary psychological foundation. Yet even when the pace lets up to focus on his attempts…

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Twin Flower (Laura Luchetti, Italy) — Discovery

By Josh Slater-Williams / September 10, 2018

By Josh Slater-Williams The meaning of Twin Flower’s title is revealed roughly 40 minutes in: preventing teenage trainee Anna (Anastasyia Bogach) from splitting a double-stemmed flower, a florist insists the plant’s parts are a rare thing that must stay together. As a unit, Anna and the film’s other teenage protagonist, Ivory Coast refugee Basim (Kalill…

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Our Time (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Germany/Denmark/ Sweden) — Masters

By Dominik Kamalzadeh / September 10, 2018

By Dominik Kamalzadeh In his Cannes-awarded Post Tenebras Lux, Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas already dealt with personal matters, reflecting on his role as lover, father and husband in a semi-autobiographical film with a metaphysical bias. Our Time goes even further in his Knausgårdian self-observation as he himself takes the central part as rancher/award-winning poet Juan,…

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Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier & Edward Burtynsky, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Steve Macfarlane / September 10, 2018

By Steve Macfarlane Coined by scientist Paul Crutzen in the early 2000s but popularized by the Iraq War veteran cum essayist Roy Scranton’s 2015 book Learning to Live and Die in the Anthropocene, the phrase “anthropocene” (wildly popular among totebag-wielding anarchists, autonomists and accelerationists in New York City) refers to the era of Earth’s history…

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Through Black Spruce (Don McKellar, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 10, 2018

By Angelo Muredda You almost have to admire the chutzpah of Through Black Spruce, which hits TIFF with an inscrutable mix of sheepishness and self-confidence. Don McKellar’s adaptation of Joseph Boyden’s Giller Prize-winning novel couldn’t be arriving at a worse time, a cultural moment where writers like Jen Sookfong Lee and Alicia Elliott have proclaimed…

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The Black Book (Valeria Sarmiento, Portugal/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2018

By James Lattimer From Amour Fou to The Death of Louis XIV to Zama, revisionism has been applied so successfully to the costume drama of late that it almost feels like something is missing when a director plays it straight. Veteran Chilean director Valeria Sarmiento’s The Black Book is a case in point here, a…

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Freaks (Zach Lipovsky & Adam Stein, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2018

By Adam Nayman Too grim for a straight-up YA audience and too goofy to be taken too seriously, Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein’s Freaks at leads owns its curious at-oddsness: it’s a weird, scrappy, palpably Canadian mutant that’s actually more likeable for not quite passing as mainstream fare. That earnest-misfit ethos begins with its seven-year-old…

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Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, US) — Platform

By Jason Anderson / September 10, 2018

By Jason Anderson Published in Cinema Scope 76 (Fall 2018)   The phony magazine cover glimpsed in the early moments of Her Smell may not have the same heady metatextual allure as that of so many journals invented out of whole cloth and newsprint for narrative purposes, like the must-read issues of Dorgon and Kill…

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The Front Runner (Jason Reitman, US) —Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2018

By Adam Nayman The second movie in as many award-season cycles to feature scenes depicting the inner workings of The Washington Post, The Front Runner stakes out its distance from Steven Spielberg by painting even charter members of the fourth estate as carrion-scarfing jackals; (insanely) cast as Ben Bradlee, Alfred Molina cynically justifies his newspaper’s…

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The Mercy of the Jungle (Joël Karekezi, Belgium, France) — Discovery

By Sarah-Tai Black / September 9, 2018

By Sarah-Tai Black Joël Karekezi’s second feature, The Mercy of the Jungle, is a propulsive film that uses the visual and dramatic potential of hermetic environments to create a story that is both broad in scope and direct in vision. Taking place at the outset of the Second Congo War in 1998, the Mercy of…

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Manta Ray (Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand/France) — Discovery

By Jennifer Lynde Barker / September 9, 2018

By Jennifer Lynde Barker Manta Ray is a film about the Other and all that this philosophical, social, and ethical concept implies. The film strikes a graceful balance between the details of lived experience and a deeper symbolic scope, building the story quietly towards an encounter with the irreducible reality of Others and our responsibility…

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Mademoiselle de Joncquières (Emmanuel Mouret, France) — Platform

By Madeleine Wall / September 9, 2018

By Madeleine Wall Loosely based upon a Denis Diderot story, Emmanuel Mouret’s Mademoiselle de Joncquières is a vengeance tale, dry and brightly lit to the point of wash-out. Taking place predominantly in estates in the French countryside, this period piece is about the repressed fury of a woman scorned, and the double standards of the…

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Touch Me Not (Adina Pintilie, Romania/Germany/Czech Republic/Bulgaria/France) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 9, 2018

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Somewhere between fiction and documentary, director Adina Pintilie and her characters explore everything that “intimacy” entails in the Golden Bear-winning Touch Me Not. The film centers around Laura (Laura Benson), a woman struggling with intimacy who turns to the personal sexual experiences of a number of marginalized people to learn more about…

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The Accused (Gonzalo Tobal, Argentina/Mexico) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Diego Brodersen / September 9, 2018

By Diego Brodersen Gonzalo Tobal’s second feature after a long hiatus (his debut film Villegas was released in Argentina in 2012) marks a clear step into the world of popular cinema. The Accused tries very hard to appeal to a broad audience with its tale of Dolores (Argentinian pop star and actress Lali Espósito, definitely…

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